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Things that don’t fit

Some time back I wrote about knowledge which is not part of existing workflows. Now I’m struggling with finding more fine-grained distinctions.

First, a few of related categories:

  • Stephen Covey‘s classification of tasks into an urgent/important matrix: important things do not have to be time-sensitive in a short-term (=it’s important to do something about one’s professional development, but it’s not necessary to work on it today).
  • Hot / warm / cold information in personal information management studies (I remember seeing it in Documents at Hand: Learning from Paper to Improve Digital Technologies, but can’t check right now if the authors referred to another source regarding it). It indicates the degree of need for a piece of information (e.g. document) in relation to a task performed right now.
  • Filing and piling strategies (e.g. here) in respect to organising/archiving pieces of information, where piling often means “I may want to access it later, but don’t know where exactly I should put it”.

Now, the dimensions regarding knowledge/information that I consider important:

  • Relevancy: it’s relevant – I don’t know – irrelevant
  • Time-sensitivity: I need it now – as soon as possible – when I do so and so – one day soon – one day
  • Ability to categorise: it’s belongs to a task/project – theme – “I feel it’s important, but I don’t know where it belongs”

Hmm, I thought that by writing it down things will become more clear, but it doesn’t work that way :))). Another try, now in a matrix:


May be relevant


Things that fit

I need them and I know what do to with them

Things that don’t fit

If I only knew if/why I need them I would know what to do with them

Don’t know

Things that don’t fit

I need them, but I don’t know what to do with them

Things that don’t fit (OR I don’t know things*)

I don’t want to let them go because they may be relevant, but I have no idea what to do with them

*This comes from a frequent expression of my husband, who would often suggest to buy “I don’t know juice” or to eat in “I don’t know restaurant” when I’m sure that I want something, but not sure what and how…

The reason I want to bring it in is simple:

  • it’s things that don’t fit that make knowledge work so complicated and so full of unexpected discoveries
  • we often don’t have good tools to deal with things that don’t fit, either because those require definite judgement on how far those are relevant and/or ability to process them in a useful way

Examples of things that do not fit:

  • coffee-table rumour from a colleague about management decision that affects the project I work in
  • an article which is interesting, but I don’t have a place to cite it right now
  • all those enterprise 2.0 blog posts that pop-up in my RSS reader
  • an article about new English language standards for the pilots of international flights that gives examples of plane incidents that happened due to lack of shared understanding

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2006/07/24.html#a1804; comments are here.

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